Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Earshot

Xander: "I'm still having trouble with that fact that one of us is just going to gun everybody down for no reason."
Cordelia: "Yeah, because that never happens in American high schools."
Oz: "It's bordering on trendy at this point."

Was it just Buffy deprivation, or was this a really good episode? We had the biting wit and great lines, and yet they were addressing truly serious issues here. I'm now very put out that this one didn't run when it should have, because it was a necessary consequences episode after "Enemies." The Faith fake-out and her open move to the Mayor's camp was a major plot change that needed consequences. I really do understand why the WB postponed it, but it sort of suffered from being out of order, don't you think?

(For those of you coming to Buffy late, this episode was originally pulled in the U.S. because it was scheduled to air only days after the Columbine High School massacre. The second part of "Graduation Day" was pulled as well, for the same reason. We had to wait quite a while for both of them.)

Buffy accidentally acquired an aspect of a telepathic demon, and started reading minds. At first, it was way better than a tail (I really enjoyed the scene where she was smugly reading her teacher's mind), but she soon discovered that she was making everyone she cared about uncomfortable. She heard Willow's self-esteem issues, Oz' deep philosophical thoughts, Xander's preoccupation with sex, Wesley's preoccupation with Cordy, and the one that was the most fun: Cordy thinking everything she was about to say right before she said it.

Buffy wasn't at all sure that Angel kissed Faith only "for the greater good," and it was an obvious (and fun) move for her to run over, get him out of bed, and try to read his mind. And even more fun for him to realize what she was doing. The Buffy/Angel scenes in this episode were really great. "I don't want a bad girl. I've done that before" raised some interesting questions about Angel's previous sex life; "I'll love you even if you're covered with slime" was delivered in such a way that you really couldn't tell what he was thinking. And I just loved that totally deadpan, "I'm a funny guy."

The serious stuff was intensely serious. The thoughts Buffy caught really hit a note with me: "I hate my body." "No one is ever going to love me." "Am I normal?" Everyone is lonely. Everyone has pain. I was worried for a second that they were going to have Jonathan go completely out of character and be a killer, but I should have known better. Instead, we had the delightfully satirical cliche of being poisoned in the school cafeteria.

Bits and pieces:

-- The most enjoyable revelation in this episode was that Giles and Joyce did indeed have sex in the episode "Band Candy." How delightful.

-- It struck me as odd to see Buffy doing Xena-like leaps and kick-boxing moves in front of an audience in broad daylight. It's usually in a deserted graveyard or a sewer or something.

-- We had some neater than usual reminders of Angel's vampirism: arriving at Buffy's door smoking, and having Buffy not see him in her makeup mirror.

-- People rarely commit suicide with a rifle, since the angle can be a challenge. Buffy still should have gotten a clue when she only jacked one round out of it.

-- Larry is a lot happier now that he's out. And he still thinks Xander is gay.

-- Loved Freddie the newspaper guy. Or at least I loved his prose.

-- Again with the Scooby Gang chain of command: with Buffy and Giles unavailable, Willow was so much fun as a top sergeant. "Write neatly and label your worksheets!"

-- Xander was distracted from his life-and-death mission by Jell-O.

-- This week's dog: Buffy: "Well, I thought I saw a four-legged demon, but it was just a dog." Oz: "A were-dog?" Buffy: "Regular."

Quotes:

Giles: "You touched one of the demons."
Buffy: "A good touch, not a bad touch. Anyway, it's been itching like crazy. No big. Just another problem for the good people at Lubriderm, right?"

Willow: "Well, according to Freddy's latest editorial, 'The pep rally is a place for pseudo-prostitutes to provoke men into a sexual frenzy, which when thwarted, results in pointless athletic competition.'"
Xander: "And the downside being?"
Willow: "The school paper is edging on depressing lately. Have you guys noticed that?"
Oz: "I dunno. I always go straight to the obits."

Buffy: "Is this the thing? The aspect thing? Because I gotta say, if it is, it is way better than a tail. I mean, I have a hard enough time finding jeans that fit right."
Giles: "Buffy, slow down. I'm not even convinced that this is genuine mind reading. You're most likely projecting your..."
Buffy: "When I walked in a few minutes ago, you thought, Look at her shoes. If a fashion magazine told her to, she'd wear cats strapped to her feet."

Angel: "Buffy, be careful with this gift. A lot of things that seem strong and good and powerful, they can be painful."
Buffy: "Like say, immortality?"
Angel: "Exactly. I'm dying to get rid of that."

Oz: "It was intense."
Xander: "Yeah, for a minute there, I thought you were going to make an expression."
Oz: "I felt one coming on, I won't lie."
Willow: "Man, I've never seen anyone jump like Hogan Martin. They should call him... the jumper."
Xander: "Or a name that isn't an article of women's clothing."

Buffy: "You had sex with Giles?"
Joyce: "Um, ah..."
Buffy: "You had sex with Giles?"
Joyce: "It was the candy... we were teenagers..."
Buffy: "On the hood of a police car?"
Joyce: "I'll be downstairs. You feel better."
Buffy: "TWICE?"

Xander: "Today's editorial entitled 'Big game draws mindless brain-dead mob'."
Cordelia: "Does he mention the cheerleaders? Because we were on."

Oz: (reading) "Dingoes Ate My Baby played their instruments as if they had plump Polish sausages taped to their fingers..."
Freddy: "Sorry, man."
Oz: "Nah, its fair."

Willow: "So you're feeling better about Angel?"
Buffy: "Well, we talked. And then he ripped out the heart of a demon and fed it to me... and then we talked some more."
Willow: "See? That's how it should work."

It doesn't get better than this. Four out of four stakes,

Billie
---
Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.

15 comments:

Mark Greig said...

I love this episode but there's always been one thing about that bothered me. The demons had no mouths because they communicated telepathic, so then how did they eat?

Billie Doux said...

BUFFY RE-WATCH comments begin here! Remember, no spoilers for future episodes. Want to talk spoilers and foreshadowing? Post them here.

drnanamom said...

I am really enjoying your reviews Billie. I know I was able to read some of them as we were watching but I couldn't with the early ones and it is making the re-watch that much more fun. @ Mark - good question but we probably don't want to talk about that anymore than where they might have teeth! This episode was an interesting comment on being a teenager. I think that nerds know that high school is not a fun place for them and other nerds but this episode showed that it is difficult for everyone. This was a critical lesson for Buffy who is out of the loop for different reasons but still realized that she had a lot of company. I particularly enjoyed the bit with Larry who is totally at peace with himself now that he has come out. I laughed out loud when he suggested Xander talk to Freddy

"I bet he'd put in, like, a coming-out announcement for you. Something tasteful."

But my favourite bit of the whole episode is right at the end when Buffy is leaving and shoots this out to Giles over her shoulder

"Sure. We can work out after school. You know, if you're not too busy having sex with my mother!"

Giles walking into the tree was priceless.

Billie Doux said...

I actually touched that tree when I went to see Torrance High School. No, I wasn't obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, why do you ask? :)

ChrisB said...

This is one of my favorites. The mixture of the very, very serious with the truly hilarious works so well. Like Doc, the part that makes me howl every time I watch it is the final bit with Giles and the tree. How awkward!

I really like Joyce's character development this season. She's gone from being completely freaked out by her daughter to acceptance. Can you imagine Giles and Angel being able to care for Buffy in quite this way last season? It would have been much more challenging.

Josie Kafka said...

You had to wait for this and the second part of “Graduation Day”? Dear god.

Juliette said...

I love this episode. Every time the students all come back in late September, I find myself thinking 'Students... if we could just get rid of all the students...' (To my students - I love you all really!)

Jane said...

I enjoyed this one, a really nice way of illustrating that lesson we all learn as we mature that everyone has stresses and insecurities.

I loved the payoff on Giles and Joyce - perfect! Speaking of sex - my mind was clearly in the gutter. At the end of the last episode when Angel said he regretted how far it had gone with Faith I didn't think he just meant kissing. The level of angst and regret he and Buffy were giving off really seemed out of proportion for a kiss to me. I may have watched one too many episodes of "The Americans!"

Annie said...

Another fab episode. My only gripe is Jonathan going to try and kill himself with a scoped rifle in a spot that offered an ideal vantage point for sniping his peers...surely they could have thought of a more subtle scenario where it could believably be interpreted either way.

My favorite bits are the scenes regarding Joyce and Giles' liaison and Cordy saying exactly what she was thinking.

sunbunny said...

Sorry for the ridiculously long comment...

I don't think anyone can argue that the network made the right choice in pulling this episode. I'm actually surprised they didn't end up eventually cutting or dubbing Xander's "I mean who hasn't idly thought of taking out the place with a semi-automatic?" I sort of admire their courage for leaving it in, while at the same time finding the line wildly offensive and wondering why it got written in the first place.

It's a shame that the circumstances of this episode's airing in many ways diminished the perfection that was 'Earshot.' It's one of my favorite episodes. It combines real world issues with the supernatural and the incredibly serious with the absurdly hilarious in a way only Buffy can do.

Buffy's speech to Jonathan is my favorite part of the episode and might just be my favorite part of season 3. It's so beautiful:

"My life happens to, on occasion, suck beyond the telling of it. Sometimes more than I can handle. And it's not just mine. Every single person down there is ignoring your pain because they're too busy with their own. The beautiful ones. The popular ones. The guys that pick on you. Everyone. If you could hear what they were feeling. The loneliness. The confusion. It looks quiet down there. It's not. It's deafening."

PS. The end part of season 3 (including the episode) is why I still like Buffy with Angel over Buffy with...other people (we'll get there!). I love how angry he gets when she's in danger and how determinedly he kills the demon and feeds her the magical glowing whatchamawhosit.

Suzanne said...

Like everyone I really love this one. Season 3 has much better stand alone episodes Han the first two seasons. In fact, I like them better than the arc episodes for the most part, which is probably because I don't care for Faith as much as some people do. However I did like that this one dealt with consequences from previous episodes while still being stand alone in nature.

It also hit me this time that Buffy was like Tam Elbrun in Star Trek TNG's episode "Tin Man" since she was being overwhelmed by other people's thoughts and emotions. I wonder if this is not a coincidence since Harry Groener (The Mayor) played Tam in that episode.

My favorite part of the episode is definitely the library scene where Buffy first reads every one's thoughts - priceless. Cordy says exactly what is on her mind as we always suspected. Xander is preoccupied with sex 24/7 -- no surprise and Wesley is a "very bad man."  I love it every time I see it. I also like how they deal with the more emotional angles to this issue, too, with Willow worrying that Buffy will know Oz better than she does. 

Sunbunny, I can see your point about Angel and Buffy in this episode. It was touching.

a.m. said...

Billie, thanks for the explanation about the history of the airing of this episode. I found myself wondering where it fell in relation to Columbine while I was watching it because comments like Xander's (as mentioned by sunbunny above) and Oz's comment about school shootings being trendy seemed surprising to me if they were written in the late 90s post-Columbine. That being said, I really enjoyed this episode because, and I feel like I say this all the time, it was very serious yet still super funny and well balanced between the two.

Oz was on fire in this one (probably because Seth Green was around to be in more scenes)! He and Xander feed off each other really well, which just shows how forgiving he can be. On top of the lines you quoted above I also loved this one from the pep rally: "I usually enjoy lameness and this has left me kind of cold." Really all of the Scoobies added a lot of comic relief to this one. On top of finding out what they were all thinking, I loved the different ways they went about interviewing people. Xander flirting with and finding out info on the cute girls and Cordy just flat out asking the teacher if he was going to kill everyone. Plus, Willow's new investigative skills were fun to watch. I guess her Bad Willow experience really did help her. I also loved when they were trying to find Jonathan, and Cordy was just turning every nondescript boy around to see if it was him. It did a lot to help the audience understand even more about Jonathan's feelings while also being humorous. I agree with you, Billie, that it was great to hear all the pain of others ("Will my breasts ever grow?") but again there was still a lot of humor with the comment about Snyder having "Walk Like an Egyptian" stuck in his head.

Only 4 more episodes to go until the end of the season--I know what I'm doing this weekend!

dvyoung444 said...

Yes, I loved the episode too. I can't add much to what anyone has said ('cept Buffy's line "Infected? Infected? Giles - Infected?" which makes me laugh every time)so I'll just say that one thing that really adds to the greatness of this season are the set pieces - most notably the library. When the gang's all assembled around the table littered with old tomes and the staircases in the background leading up to those dusty shelves - the gravitas is suddenly heightened tenfold. I really can't think of a better home base and without giving anything away, I'll just say that it's sorely missed in the later seasons.

stephen said...

This is my favourite non-musical episodes of Buffy. The "infected" line, final exchange between Buffy, Giles and the tree, as well as all the mind-reading is hilarious. One thing I love about BtVs is how even the standalones have so much arc in, it must have been so annoying to have had to miss this in the original run! Though you wouldnt have missed anything too critical, and perhaps didnt even realise youd missed anything at all, there was a lot of fallout from the previous episode. During the original run was it made clesr to the audience that an episode was being skipped, or was it just kinda swept under the rug? The suspense of waiting for the 2nd part of Graduation Day must have been an absolute killer!

Billie Doux said...

Stephen -- ,y favorite non-musical episode of Buffy is "Fool for Love", but "Earshot" ranks pretty high on my list, probably in my top five. I do remember them making an announcement along the lines of "postponed due to recent events". And when it happened again for the finale, I was VERY unhappy about it.